Books to Read after a Lesbian Break-up

I’m a big believer in the power of books to fix any kind of problem.  So, of course, since I’m going through a break-up, I turned to my somewhat massive collection of books for comfort and I guess all sorts of other things.  The problem is, there are just certain things you don’t want to read about when you’ve just broken up with someone.  Anything lovey-dovey, for starters.  Cute little coming-out stories.  Stuff that reminds you of your ex.  So check out these (hopefully) safe books for that post-break-up period.

dykes to watch out forThe Dykes to Watch Out For Series by Alison Bechdel

Genre: Graphic / Modern American Serialized Melodrama and Politics

Why?: It’s got a lot of pictures, so it’s easy to read and get caught up in even if you’re upset.

How it will make you feel: You can forget about your life and your real-life dyke drama and read about Mo and her pals’ drama.  Yes, there is relationship stuff in here, but also a lot of perspective.  You can watch the trials and tribulations of everyone over the years and see that life does indeed go on.

What else: Make sure you get a stack of the books in this series (I think there are about twelve), because you can read one pretty fast.  Either that, or get yourself that giant Essential Dykes to Watch Out for.

nevadaNevada by Imogen Binnie

Genre: Post-everything / Queer Trans Roadtrip Novel

Why?: Hey, at least your girlfriend didn’t lie to you about cheating on you and you didn’t steal/borrow her car after losing your job and drive halfway across the country.  Uh, unless any of that is true, in which case don’t read this.

How it will make you feel: Even more cynical than you already feel, if that’s the way you roll.  I personally kind of enjoy wallowing in cynicism for a while but beware if that’s not your thing.  Also, it will seriously make you laugh.  In a dark way, this is a funny, funny book.  For example: Maria comments on an email interaction: “they are basically instant messaging via email, like our ancestors did.”

What Else: When you’re done, write me and tell me what you think of the ending.

bloodchildBloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

Genre: Science Fiction

Why?: This book is so out there you’ll forget you’re on planet Earth, let alone about your ex.

How it will make you feel: Like there are a hell of a lot more important things than your break-up and romance.  You know, like the human species surviving on a faraway planet by allowing an alien species to use men as hosts for their babies.

What Else: Now that you’re convinced of Octavia Butler’s genius (as I was after I read this book) check out her epic trilogy Lilith’s Brood.

with a rough tongueWith a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn Edited by Amber Dawn and Trish Kelly

Genre: I think the word ‘porn’ in the title says it all.

Why?: Well, you don’t want to read about relationships, but sex is pretty fun right?  A good way to take your mind off things.  Femmes!  Porn!  Well-written!  Smart!  What more could you want?

How it will make you feel: Um, turned on.  Obviously.

What Else: There are a lot of awesome writers (including Nalo Hopkinson, Suki Lee, Zoe Whittall, and Anna Camilleri) in this collection, and you should check out their other work!

harrietthespyillustrationHarriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (or substitute your favourite book from when you were twelve)

Genre: Young Adult Realist

Why?: How can you not love Harriet the Spy?  She’s totally a proto-baby dyke but this book is not a gushy novel about finding yourself and coming out.  Harriet is a quirky outsider who keeps a diary containing all of her observations, good and bad, about her friends, family and classmates.  And, she has a neighbourhood spy route.

How it will make you feel: Like you want to become a spy.  Like you want to start keeping a diary again.  Like you want to roll around and pretend you’re an onion.  Like you’re back to being a pre-teen before you ever even met that horrible person who broke your heart!

What Else: Don’t you think writing in a notebook is a great way to start processing?  Okay, I’m going to try that right now.

Mmermaid in chelsea creekermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Why?: Unlike a lot of other young adult books, this one contains very close to no romance (queer or otherwise).  At a more optimistic point in my life I was disappointed by this, but now it seems like a great thing that Mermaid in Chelsea Creek just focuses on the protagonist Sophie’s newfound destiny of saving the world.  No big deal.

How it will make you feel: Like you could be that girl chosen to save the world, where the stakes are high and you know what’s really important: ridding the world of evil.

What Else: Warning: this is the first book in a trilogy, so it ends right in the middle of the action!

why be happyWhy Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Genre: Memoir

Why?: I happened to be reading this book when I was going through another break-up and I found it amazingly beautiful and moving and hopeful, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Winterson has gone through a lot of hard things in her life (don’t worry, break-ups aren’t really one of them).  This book is probably better for when you’re feeling ready to feel a bit better about humanity.

How it will make you feel: How does this make you feel?

Listen, we are human beings.  Listen, we are inclined to love.  Love is there, but we need to be taught how.  We want to stand upright, we want to walk, but someone needs to hold our hand and balance us a bit, and guide us a bit, and scoop us up when we fall.  Listen, we fall.  Love is there but we have to learn it—and its shapes and its possibilities.  I taught myself to stand on my own two feet, but I could not teach myself how to love.  We have a capacity for language.  We have a capacity for love.  We need other people to release those capacities.

What Else: Since writing was Winterson’s saving grace, this book might inspire you to write too.

*This article was inspired by a recent article on Book Riot.  They suggest the Harry Potter series, which I wholeheartedly support.


About CaseytheCanadianLesbrarian

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian who holds an MA in English literature. She lives and works in the unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation (Nanaimo, BC). Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of LGBTQ2IA+ Canadian books, archives of the book advice column Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. She also writes for Autostraddle. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian. Some of her old reviews, especially the non-Canadian variety, can be found at the Lesbrary.
This entry was posted in Amber Dawn, Anna Camilleri, Anthology, BDSM, Bisexual, Canadian, Coming-of-age, Erotica, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic, Lesbian, Nalo Hopkinson, Non-Canadian, Non-Fiction, Queer, Science Fiction, Trans, Trans Feminine, Vancouver, Zoe Whittall and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Books to Read after a Lesbian Break-up

  1. Widdershins says:

    Sorry to hear your heart’s feeling dented. I hope it inflates again in the not-to-distant-future.

    A great reading list for anywhere on the ‘ship’ journey.

  2. Hi Casey,

    This is an awesome post. I’m the author of the Book Riot one; I remember thinking as I wrote it that it was a shame that I could only really recommend books based on my own point of view – it’s very cool to see it expanded. Thank you.

    (And I’m so sorry to hear about your breakup! I hope that reading is helping as much as it can.)

    – Becky

  3. Alison says:

    Heart goes out to you, Casey. But thanks for putting this out there – I’m going to hold on to it, just in case.

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  5. Dragon says:

    You actually posted this within hours of my girlfriend breaking up with me. Do you have ESP/are you reading my mind/hacking my phone? This is perfect.

  6. solargrrl says:

    Sorry about the break-up, that hurts, but the list of books here is a good one. Better to have these on the shelves that a bottle of booze to help heal. Your “Why’s?” and “How it will make you feel” are priceless. Best review technique I’ve seen. Hope the coming Spring brings a smile to you again. And if it doesn’t, then a new book someday certainly will. Take care.

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